We go out to lunch. With the girls. The rare handful of them that come and go from the Outpost; only a couple of us are permanent, rooted solid. Lunch is in celebration of International Women’s Day. Our hostess asks that we all arrive with an inspirational quote.
Immediately I panic. How will mum manage: to read is slow and can be tortuous, worse with an audience when nerves get the better of her. To remember something new, impossible.
She is unfazed. And from her tongue trips this:
Good, better, best,
Never let it rest,
Til your good is better,
And your better best.
‘I don’t where that came from’, she says, smiling in response to my congratulations and laughter,’ it was just there, in my head.’
I can’t make up my mind between two quotes – each supposed to be especially meaningful to the reader – so I take both.
‘It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere’, so said essayist, Agnes Repplier
And, according to Marilyn Monroe, ‘Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring’.
I think my choice defines me neatly: my belief in the inevitability of madness and its thinline relationship with genius, my admiration for the beauty of imperfection, my comprehension of the mercurial catch-me-if-you-can nature of happiness: we can only ever be responsible for our own. The near-the-surface-of-my-skin fear that being an introvert (married to a 6’2″ extrovert) renders me dull. I am content to be viewed as unconventional, offcentre; I’d hate to be considered dreary.
And I adore Mum’s simple recital, I love that she has the courage to deliver it, that she has sieved her memories and found precisely the ditty she scribbled in my first autograph book. I think it underlines her unflagging determination to read and write all over again. Her courage. How game she is to join in, remain a part of all this.
All the girls at the table applaud her when she delivers her words. I want to weep with pride as she glows with delight.